I took the flight, I called the action, I got lost in all the hype... brothers & sisters, #TheVoiceWasHeard at Evo 2017!
There's not much you can say to adequately describe your first time going somewhere new. Despite it being in action for 15 years, I've actually never been to Evo before. Sure, a good chunk of the team made the pilgrimage last year & our boy KPB|Parappa is something of a Vegas regular, but the Dynamek One & Only has never hit the Strip. All that changed this year, however, and I owe you lot an enormous debt of gratitude. I may have been the one hitting the road & putting in all the miles in order to bless the mic at as many events as humanly possible, but if it weren't for all of you showing your support by believing in me, I wouldn't even be a part of the conversation. So before I get into my take on the event, I just wanted to say "Thank you".
So where do I begin? I suppose the beginning is a good spot. Much earlier in the year, after the initial announcement for this year's Evo went live, I took to Twitter and made a very clear statement:
I don't care what time slot or days it gets, I want to call the action for KOF XIV at Evo 2017!
A little brazen, I'll admit, but I was a man possessed by righteous fervor. As I've stated in the past, Kick-Punch-Block's history is very closely tied to that of the KOF franchise. On a personal level, I've been playing the game religiously since 1995. When XIV dropped, I was ready to get to work. Rodimus Prime & Rage were more than onboard with the idea of headlining our Chinatown Beatdown event series with the game and the community responded with equal fervor. So once the idea manifested in my head, I devised to build my resumé by hitting the road. Wherever KPB was tapped to stream, I'd make the necessary arrangements & find my way there. Summer Jam, the Fall Classic, Rumble in the Tundra, GUTS & NEC all saw me on the mic, calling the action. However, it wasn't until King of New York that a very important piece of information landed on my lap.
You see, I'm a relatively simple guy. If I want to accomplish something, I simply put in the kind of work that I think would be relevant to the task. That was apparently not the case with wanting to become an Evo commentator. I learned that I needed to reach out to a man named Chris Ceglia. Turns out that he was the man who made all the final decisions when it came to assigning talent for the really big events. Once I knew how to reach him, I resigned to put together a highlight reel. Before I could, though, Final Round 20 was in front of me. Thanks to a helping hand from my man Bifuteki, I was able to make my way down to Atlanta & I had the chance to meet the man himself. He struck me as unassuming, but intensely focused on his task. I didn't want to make a bad impression, but I also didn't want to hamper my performance by getting all caught in trying to impress someone I just met. With the knowledge of his presence, I decided to just be me & do my thing. With the help of Manchest & Amish Mike, I was able to put on a stellar performance that weekend.
My next stop was NorCal Regionals. It was here that I'd finally get the chance to work with the legendary GameGoons crew. If you don't already know, these guys are the standard by which most of the KOF community measures itself. Simply put, they know their stuff when it comes to the King of Fighters series. Ironically, my attendance there was the result of a throwaway comment made by Prime. He said that, before he left the FGC for good, he wanted to see HellPockets & myself on the mic together. As fate would have it, HP was paying attention and told Prime that, if I could make it to the even, they would love to work with me. It's hard not to get a little giddy after hearing something like that. Although I admittedly had some nerves plaguing me beforehand, everything just clicked once I got the thumbs up from the 10/0 squad working the rig that night. Not only was it fun as hell, it also taught me a LOT sharing the mic with HP & MetaPhysics.
Here's where things get interesting. After I wrapped up for the evening, I went to the bar to enjoy a celebratory drink (or two). It was at this moment that Ceg Himself pulled up a seat & asked if I'd like to share a drink with him. Never being one to turn down hospitality, I agreed & he ordered two shots of Maker's Mark. He congratulated me for a job well done. I can't exactly remember how this came up in the conversation, but I relayed the comment that Rodimus Prime had made about seeing HellPockets & myself on the mic together. He ordered another drink and told me to thank Prime once I got back to NY because that haphazard catalyst secured my spot on the roster in Vegas.
Here's where things get tricky, though. You see, I couldn't go broadcasting the news that I was destined for Evo. Sure, I told my team, but that's where I drew the line. Those next two months were BRUTAL. On one hand, I wasn't allowed to divulge some of the biggest news I've ever received in my life; on the other, most of the people -- hereby now known as "Uninitiated" -- who I could tell had no functional understanding of what that news meant. To put it in as simplistic terms I can think of: Imagine being a huge movie buff and finding out that they want you to work on the Oscars (or Emmys or whichever awards show floats your boat the most)... THAT'S how immense the news was to me. I come to realize that sitting on info like that can be rather physically draining. By the time CB2017 rolled around, my mindset had come to settle in that unique psychological terrain between "paranoid anxiety" & "utter elation". Being tapped to call the action in Chicago was a career highlight, no arguments there. Having ManChest, Amish Mike & Rynge by my side only sweetened the deal.
June allowed me some time to reflect and prepare for the matter at hand. I wasn't on the hook to be anywhere that month (outside of our first anniversary for Chinatown Beatdown). The downside of all this downtime was that my mind started, slowly but surely, creeping towards anxiety. The weight of what was soon to become my situation was eating away at me. Since joining KPB, I've enjoyed a certain level of anonymity. Sure, different people in certain circles knew about me, but I was still able to go unrecognized most of the time. After being featured on an Evo stream, though, that wasn't looking very likely. Thankfully, my team was there to steady my nerves. Once I had resolved to do this not for myself, but for them, the community & the region, I was ready to get to work.
Upon landing in Vegas, the scope of what was ahead became very apparent. Since this was my first time, I had to do my best to not get overwhelmed by anything the city had to offer -- glamour, glitz, dry heat, booze, etc. -- and focus on my task. Perhaps I'll be forever spoiled by this, but I really cannot stress enough just how intense that first time on the venue floor was.
— KPB | Aphro Dynamek (@AphroDynamek) July 14, 2017
That's an admittedly paltry vantage point, but hopefully it gives you some idea of just how massive the whole undertaking was. The night before I was scheduled to rock the mic, I made my way up to the GameGoons suite and was fortunate enough to see some serious KOF XIV action go down. As crazy as it all was, that wasn't the tournament proper. While I genuinely wanted to see it all through to the end, I wanted to remain professional, so I ducked out a little after midnight & headed back to my hotel room. Once Friday began, I was all business. Fate was on my side that day, brothers & sisters, because I got to experience commentating Evo from both sides of the spectrum. That is to say, I was first paired with Sami Fish (someone who I was aware of, but hadn't met personally) only to end up on the mic with none other than HellPockets himself. What was written down as four hours felt like a walk in the park for me. If I'm being totally honest, I would have gone all day right up to Top 8 had they let me.
Once my "job" was done, it was time to enjoy Evo for what it was really worth. Really take in all the sights & sounds that the event had to offer. Saw a great many things, met a few impressive cosplayers, ran into some old friends from the East Coast. I was even able to grab a front row seat for the KOF XIV Top 8 and, ohh my damn... I know now what it means to be present when history is made. I'm not going to rattle on about how things ended up (because I'm sure you already know by now), but I will say this: "Don't wake Daddy!" I actually lost my voice that night. Something I hadn't taken into account when it came to sitting in the front row is that whenever anything amazing happens, there is a tidal wave of sound swelling up behind you. Never experienced anything like that in my life, but I hope it's not the last time.
Saturday was actually spent on the Vegas Strip. I didn't want to let the city's allure completely go to waste. My only regret is that I missed the GGXrd Rev2 Top 8 and that's particularly sad because the Grand Finals match was a Johnny & Leo matchup. (They're two of my favorite characters on the roster.) I cannot thank my friend Ingrid enough for showing me the Vegas Strip, glamour and squalor alike, taking me to Fremont Street, letting me know about the 100 oz. Yard from Fat Tuesday & being a lovely tour guide by filling me in on all the nitty gritty Vegas had to offer. It was awesome. Although, I think the soles of my sneakers may have melted a bit. Either way, incredible experience from beginning to end.
Sunday was a little more sporadic. There was no way in Heaven or Hell that I was going to get up at 7:00a for ANY Top 8 spectacle, so I skipped UMVC3's farewell performance. I got there in time for BBCF & Tekken 7's Top 8s. It was at this moment in time where I didn't just lose my voice... my vocal chords straight up desynced from my body. Between the Juubei reveal, BB Cross Tag Battle, Geese's arrival AND witnessing the return of Skullomania & Darun Mister, it was simply a hype overload. My body was not ready. I took a lunch break during Smash because I had spent most of the day before drinking & I desperately needed to eat. Also, I had to get my thoughts straight for this very write-up. Fortunately, KPB|Parappa was there to keep me company. In terms of hype, everything came to something of a screeching halt for me upon seeing Abigail. Regardless of how optimal the character may be upon release, the timing was just off for that one. After enjoying a few matches for the Street Fighter 5 Top 8, I left once the Winner's Semifinals had wrapped up. No one will ever believe me, but I knew what was (or rather what wasn't) going to happen before too long, so I headed back to my hotel room to relax for a bit.
The after party was nice, but I've never really been one for that kind of thing. I showed face, thanked some relevant people, had a few drinks & called it a night. My epic journey back home is technically irrelevant to the message of this piece, but just know it took about roughly 22 hours. By the time I got back to NY, I had nothing left. The memories, however, aren't going anywhere for a long time.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.